An Actor's Perspective: The First Run Through

Jennifer Kuzmeskas

  • OnStage Columnist

We completed the first full run of the show last night! YAY!!!!! Just as we were enjoying that feeling of accomplishment and joy, the director says, “Everyone take a seat, I have some notes.”  For some people a feeling of dread set in.  Questions start running through their head…is the director mad at me? Did he not like what I did? He’s going to yell at me for missing that entrance. Most directors (and yes, I mean most, we all know directors that don’t necessarily have the greater good in mind) are just trying to make the show better.  

So, last night as we went to take our seats to hear those notes, I heard the mutterings of those around me. Many were saying, “Uh oh, were we that bad,” “I wish I hadn’t made that face,” “Did I call for too many lines?” I don’t typically feel that way about notes so I got to thinking about it. The director can actually see what we are doing, he/she walks around to different areas the audience will be sitting in to see different angles. They see things what we don’t consider as actors. After all, we can’t see ourselves on stage.  

Directors want the same thing we do as actors though, they want the show to be the very best it can be. They want to develop a good reputation for themselves, the theatre group they are working with and you as an actor. We all know the community theatre world is a small one, so none of us want to be associated with a show that isn’t up to par.  This is also his/her opportunity to change anything that doesn’t look right. As the show progresses, characters are developed, scenery and props are added, etc., so there is often a need to change the staging, blocking, choreography, etc. at this point. If you don’t perform in the same space you rehearse in this can be especially true, and challenging, once you are in your performance space. 

For me, I enjoy notes from a good director that has the best intentions at heart. We are lucky with the director we have for my current show. He is amazing and just wants this to be the most successful show it can be. The thing is, directors are not questioning your acting choices, putting you down, trying to make you feel bad, wishing they hadn’t cast you, saying you aren’t talented or anything of the like. They are encouraging you to be a better actor/actress, they are giving constructive criticism. When you present all the hard work and passion you have put in to a live audience this can be the difference between a good performance and a great performance. 

You spent hours (probably more than you care to count) learning lines, lyrics, blocking, music, rhythms, etc.  Trust in yourself that you did get it your all out there. That you put the effort in you are having great rehearsals as a result. But, also allow yourself to keep improving, understand that things need to be tweaked and that a note from the director doesn’t mean you did something wrong.  They are not the enemy! 

I suggest trying something new…next time your director gives you a note, thank them. Think of it as them doing you a favor. Their suggestions are going to help you become a better performer, help you react in a more believable way to the action on stage, they are assisting you in creating the magic that happens on stage during every performance.